Bridging the mom-daughter communications gap


Book club makes it easier to talk about touchy topics

Photo courtesy of Sandra Landen Machaj Erin Lee, 11, and her mom, Jan, read together.

When Jan Lee first heard about mother-daughter book clubs, her daughter was only 4. She was so excited by the idea that she could hardly wait for her daughter to learn to read. When Erin entered third grade, Lee invited girls from the class and their mothers to form a book club.

"I saw this as a chance to share my love of reading with my daughter and to encourage communication as she grew older," Lee says. The eight mothers and daughters in Lee's group have been meeting monthly, September through May, for nearly three years.

Lee got the idea from a book by Shireen Dodson, The Mother-Daughter Book Club: How Ten Busy Mothers and Daughters Came Together to Talk, Laugh and Learn Through Their Love of Reading. Any book club can encourage reading but a mother-daughter book club does something more: It gives mothers and daughters a chance to express their sometimes contradictory views on many issues by couching them in a book discussion. That means those sometimes touchy subjects don't have to be off limits. By learning to express their views in terms of the fictional characters, the moms hope that when the same subjects come up later in their daughters' real lives, they will be able to talk about them in a less confrontational way, Lee says.

To start a mother-daughter book club, Lee suggests inviting at least 10 mothers and daughters so there are enough members to stimulate discussion. She recommends seeking a balance between compatibility and diversity. Having mothers and daughters who get along is important, but having a variety of interests and backgrounds encourages the group to explore different types of literature and makes for a livelier discussion.

She also notes that it's important to be aware of everyone's reading level so the girls aren't intimidated by a too-hard book or bored by a too-easy one. A social activity, such as dinner, provides an opportunity for mothers and daughters to continue to communicate, moving from books into their own lives. Other activities could include visiting a book store or seeing a play based on a book.

Erin Lee, 11, says the club is fun and educational. "I get to see my friends. I read more carefully and pay attention to things like characters and settings."


Sandra Landen Macha

Kids Eat Chicago

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